If you spend your winter in the snow with your dog, you’ve probably wondered about whether they need to wear boots…and do mushers really use them? Or is that just a city-folk thing?
Well, the quick answer is yes! Absolutely mushers use them…but usually not the same kind you’d find in your local pet store.
Mushers use booties for their sled dogs primarily to keep the snow from building up between the dog’s toes, and to protect the pads of the feet from damage caused by icy and snow.
Our recreational mushing dogs need the same protection as sledding dogs, if they are running in snowy conditions, but also need protection from sidewalk salt, and cold weather.
Most pet dogs wear booties because their owners think they need them for the cold weather, and sometimes that’s true. If I walk my dogs in -30°C weather at a walking pace on a cold cement sidewalk, their feet will get cold.
But, if I take them out in the same weather and run them, they probably don’t need much (if any) footwear to help them overcome the cold. More movement, means more blood flow, and warmer feet.
So, you don’t usually need boots for the cold, but snow that has refrozen can wreak havoc with pads. Ice shards (that you can’t even see) can cause painful splinters in your dog’s nail bed and between pads causing a lot of damage. Not to mention, skidded pads can take a long time to heal.
So, if you’re facing crystalized snow, icy conditions, or a lot of road salt, you might want to pick up a pair of mushing booties for your dog.
They shouldn’t be the big, bulky contraptions you see at the pet store. Instead, pick up simple cordura booties with an elastic Velcro strap to attach them.
They’re usually inexpensive (at least compared to the pet store variety). And, depending on the miles you run, might last a season.
Anything you pick up at a mushing supply shop should do the trick, but look for:
- An elastic Velcro fastener: these stay on the best, and are more comfortable for the dog
- Cordura fabric: a higher denier count usually means it will be longer lasting and more durable
- No grip: this really surprised me when I started mushing, but you don’t want the big rubber grips that pet store boots have (at least not to battle snow and ice). No grips is the norm for racing teams. The heat from your dog’s pad will cause some melting snow to stick to the bootie, which provides a surprising amount of traction
- Velcro that doesn’t rub on the dew claw: check where the Velcro is fastened on your dog’s leg, and be sure it doesn’t rub on their dew claw, that hurts!
- Polar fleece: if your dog needs something warmer, buy a simple polar fleece bootie. They’re built exactly the same way as the Cordura boots. And, you can put a cordura bootie on top of the fleece bootie, for more durability if needed
Mushing specific boots are the best dog boot for staying on, but your dog is sure to lose one or two over the season. So pick up a couple extras, you’ll thank yourself later.
Also be sure to closely read the product listing when you buy your boots. They are usually sold individually, not as a set. I like to buy six at a time, if I want the dogs to wear one on each foot.
If you’re having trouble finding quality mushing boots, check out our Equipment Suppliers Guide for a few recommendations. We aren’t affiliates for any of the suppliers, we just know and like their products
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